Interview with Nightwish 86

Source: Aardschok
Netherlands, September-October 2002

The future of Nightwish

Keyboarder Tuomas Holopainen is the musical genius behind Nightwish. He decides in which direction the music of the five Finnish members goes and writes all lyrics. Yet the eye catcher and the most attention demanding is singer Tarja Turunen who lets Nightwish stand out above the other gothic metal bands for four studio albums long with her characteristic 'elf-voice' and beautiful appearance. Every since the Oceanborn album got released in 1998 everything is going upwards with the band. The latest album Century Child is rising in the charts. But still the others aren't at ease. Will Tarja remain the front woman in the future of Nightwish?

Tarja Turunen

Before me is laying a copy of Century Child from the French XIII Bis Records licensed by Spinefarm. This one was available about three weeks before the release by Universal Records, your record company for France. Is this a bootleg?

I'm not allowed to tell too much about that. There have been some mistakes at the taking over by Universal of Spinefarm. XIII Bis had to wait with the release but obviously they didn't. The XIII Bis edition isn't the official Nightwish release. This 'problem' will be fixed pretty quickly.

Congratulations. Century Child got form zero to five in the German album charts and got platinum within two weeks in Finland with Ever Dream at the top position in the single charts.

Yes, I was very surprised. It's going very fast at the moment with the band's success.

At the moment you're studying in Karlsruhe. How did the recording went for you? You probably haven't spend two months in the studio with the rest of the band?

No, I haven't. Tuomas sent the demo's to Germany with the singing notes as piano notes. This way I at least had a rough version of the songs. A few weeks later I got the lyrics. This wasn't a new way of working, we've done it the same in the past. I had a break between two semesters in March, and in those two weeks I recorded my parts in the Finnvox studio's in Helsinki.

Last week we played at the Bang Your Head Festival, Balingen. One weekend day, so that was easy to combine with my studies though I sometimes have to follow classes in the weekends. For me it isn't always fun to go to school and be in Nightwish at the same time. We can only tour when I have holidays in school, so I actually never have a day off. Maybe with Christmas, I could use that.

Your singing parts on this album are a bit lower. Were you surprised when you heard Tuomas material?

No, not at all. Tuomas had heard my lower singing voice and he liked the softer side of my voice. I had tried all that earlier before but I couldn't manage it like I do now. Back then I said "I'm not a popsinger, I'm a classical singer." But now that I'm in Germany and that I've been following singing lessons for half a year, I can focus better on my voice. My technique has progressed and I don't feel so insecure anymore when I use my lower voice.

I don't know if it's this mix, but your lower voice sounds a lot softer, less bombastic.

I know what you're trying to say, but it isn't meant that way. In the beginning it wasn't really my choice to use my lower voice but Tuomas absolutely loved it. I still have that bombastic voice though.

Absolutely, you can still hear that on songs like End of All Hope and Slaying the Dreamer. But with a song like f.e. Dead to the World the main parts are sung by the new bassist Marco Hietala (ex-Sinergy) and you're as good as degraded to only backing vocals while you're the front woman of the band.

I've been getting a lot of questions about that but to me there's absolutely no problem that Marco is doing the main vocals on that song - and some others. But let me say that Tarja will never become a singer for only backing vocals within Nightwish. Over my dead body, that will never happen. When Tuomas started writing the songs for this album, he wanted them form the beginning to be sung by a male voice and because Marco was a singer as well in his previous band, it worked out good for us. It are only rumours that Marco has been asked to join the band to take over the vocals when I would leave the band. On questions about that I don't even want to answer because it's all bullshit!

But you have to understand the fans. They are worried: Tarja is singing more on the background on some songs, a bassist is taking over some lead vocals, the band has to follow a recording and touring schedule that can be combined with your school schedule, you're studying in Germany while the other members are living in Finland, you're going to marry an Argentinean guy. All of this combined makes you conclude that the beginning of Tarja's end with Nightwish is near.

Of course it's easy to conclude that en I can't guarantee that things will be the same for the next ten years but why don't they just let us do our thing? Music is an universal language. Nightwish is making music they like and Tuomas isn't writing music with the thought "What will the fans think of this?" He is just writing what he feels, thinks and goes through at that moment. And while writing he of course thinks of my abilities with my voice. Of course he won't suddenly write a jazz-song, because that would be a disaster to all Nightwish-fans. On the new album there have been some changes but not changes that will be too much for the fans. The band has made progress with each album. To me it isn't a problem to sing about the personal troubles of Tuomas, because I know him so well. There are some mysterious things going on in his head and to me it's every time a surprise again what he has come up with now. I admire that in him, I never would be able to expose my feelings that way. I'm just the messenger if his emotions.

What is your final goal? Do you want to go in the direction of Sarah Brightman or even Celine Dion? Forever Yours could have been on the soundtrack of Titanic.

To be honest, I don't like Sarah's voice. I do on her pop songs but not the classical ones, then I even hate it. I do think she does a very good job in arranging and producing songs. My favourites are some Swedish opera singers. Forever Yours is seen by many people to be a Titanic song. Tuomas had to laugh pretty loud when he heard the outcome of the song in the studio - but that's mostly because of the pipes that are in the song. I myself just think of it as a good ballad.

Another surprise on the album is The Phantom of the Opera.

The original I really don't think of as good, but Tuomas really wanted to work with it because he thought the song was perfect to get a Nightwish treatment. Maybe the song isn't as bombastic as we would have wanted but it's definitely better than the original.

If everything turns out the way it should, how long do you still have to study?

The study takes two years, but what follows after, nobody knows.

You also have worked with BVI. Will you continue that?

No, they already asked somebody else to do that. The Infinity thing was the first and absolute last metal project I have worked on. I'm simply too busy. I sang the Until Dawn song on Infinity. It had to be recorded in one day and I only got the lyrics the day before. It was very hard for me to fit in the lyrics in such a short time. I recorded my part in Helsinki, I never saw the other singers of the project.

As already has been said, the album is doing great everywhere. More and more people will want to see you. On a certain point you probably have to choose between your study and Nightwish.

I have been making that kind of decisions more times a day already. The past five years I have put most of my energy in Nightwish and now I finally want to take more time for my classical singing everybody is disagreeing. When we started Nightwish, nobody expected the success we have now. At a certain point I will have to choose yes, but I can't answer you right now.

And it should be clear that Marco won't replace you in the future?

No because then it wouldn't be Nightwish anymore.

Tuomas Holopainen

Before I go talk about Century Child, we're first catching up a bit by talking about the DVD From Wishes to Eternity, released after the studio album Wishmaster.

Back then our label Spinefarm came with the idea of recording a live DVD. Nightwish would be the first band in Finnish history to be recording a full live DVD. So a cool idea. Though it put us under pressure during that gig, because it would be the only gig we would be able to use for the DVD. Normally artists pick material from several gigs but we couldn't. That only show had to be perfect. We were all very nervous so a few things went wrong, but in the end I'm quite satisfied with the DVD. Later on also a CD from the DVD recordings got made. This was easy seeing we already had everything on tape. To still make it something special, we released only fifteen thousand copies, only for Finland.

Before you started on the new CD also an EP Over the Hills and Far Away got released.

There would be two years between the release of Wishmaster album and Century Child. We thought that was way to long; you can't keep your fans waiting that long. I had been thinking about covering Over the Hills and Far Away for about a year and the EP would be a good chance to record this song. This MCD was a great success to our big surprise. I think the single has been in the Finnish single top 10 for 47 weeks. Unbelievable! Our biggest hit for so far. Century Child has been standing on the top position for six weeks now too, but the biggest surprise came from Germany; Century Child is in the 5th place now. We've always wanted to sell good outside the Finnish borders, but the huge interest from Germany is being our expectations. We had never expected this.

[...] Why has bassist Sami Vänskä left the band?

That decision wasn't made in just a day. His motivation hadn't been the way it should be for a while already. And next to that the music of Nightwish has never cared him that much. It didn't touch him, while the other members gave their whole being to the band. After a lot of touring there has been a huge conflict. That's when we decided it was better for all that Sami would leave.

The one who will be replacing Sami is Marco Hietala (ex-Sinergy). I assume you already knew each other.

Yes, we do. We met him at the Nightwish/Sinergy tour two years ago. We knew who we were going to work with and on top of that, Marco is a great singer. For Century Child I was going to need a male singer and this way we could kill two birds with one stone.

When did you get the idea of using a male voice next to Tarja's?

I'm trying to keep Nightwish' music interesting, for the fans but mostly for myself. We are always looking for new angles. Fans don't have to be afraid we will change the Nightwish style completely to a pop or hip-hop band; we'll always be a metal band. But to keep it interesting we have to search for new elements. This time it was a male voice. And besides that we chose to use a real orchestra and choir this time.

Could you tell us more about the recordings of Century Child? Did you like working with an orchestra or was it a one time thing for you?

The recordings of Century Child were the hardest ever for me. The album never seemed to get finished. Before we started recording we made a demo. I have played the parts of the orchestra and choir on my keyboards on it. We hired somebody to work out the arrangements for that, so fortunately I didn't had to do that anymore. The biggest job was for the [can't be seen on the scan] and he did a great job. This all happened December last year. Halfway January we went into the studio and we've been there for four months. First all guitar and drums parts, then Tarja's vocals, Marco's vocals, the orchestra, the choir, some guy for special percussion, somebody for special effects,... After that we were mixing for two weeks. It really didn't seem to come to an end. It was a very huge job to do but if everything goes well, it should pay all the hard working back.

Did you have more troubles with writing and composing this album?

I worked the same way as I had written Wishmaster and it took me about as much time. Still it was a bit harder to write the music and maybe you can hear that on Century Child too. It has everything to do with the crisis the band was in at that time. We had to search for a new bassist, we were searching for a new manager as well because everything got too big, we needed to change our booking office etc. That kind of stuff automatically has influence on the band. Also my private life was a mess back then. I was feeling confused and depressed. I don't think I have ever felt so down before. That of course is the main reason why Century Child sounds so hard and aggressive. An album always reflects the way the writer was feeling at that moment. It conveys a certain period from the artist. During the writings of Oceanborn I was going through a worriless period which makes the album sound happier.

Century Child isn't a concept album, but I think there is a red line.

Century Child was never meant to be a concept album. But afterwards, after writing every song, I found out there was a connection between all the songs. They were all more or less about, innocence, losing it and growing up. But that was coincidence. No doubt it's because of my private life. Last year was, like I said before, a very hard and tough period for me. I've been thinking a lot about where I stand in life but also where the band is going and the people involved with the band. Music industry is evil, but I had changed myself as well. I've felt very bad about that. Century Child can be seen as a journey through my being, my soul. Making this kind of album is a big like some sort of personal relieve. And when I hear the songs now it really feels like a big relieve. I think it made me a better person, haha!

How did Tarja react when she got to hear the Century Child material for the first time?

She was perplexed. "What the hell is this?" was the only thing she could say. After a while she got used to the songs though and now she's standing behind the songs completely and she can appreciate the new direction we went in.

Isn't it hard for Nightwish to work with a singer like Tarja? She's living in Germany and all the Nightwish activities need to be compatible with her schedule. And is that maybe the reason why Marco has taking some vocals?

Before the recordings it didn't really matter she was in Germany for her studies. When she still was living in Helsinki we actually worked the same way. Tarja is very positive about Marco. He's a good singer and their voices fit with each other. And during live performances she isn't fully in the picture anymore, Marco can ease her job a bit. About planning the concerts, it is hard that Tarja has such a tight schedule. Our next tour for example needs to fit in the two moths of Tarja's summer holidays. The first concert will be the day after her last school day and our last gig will be in Germany because she has her first school day the day after again. We tried our best to get everything scheduled as good as possible but unfortunately we can't go the countries like Canada, the USA, Mexico, Japan and Portugal. But we have to do everything with what we have. She has already decided next year she will take a year off for her studies, which means Nightwish will be non-active for a year. It's good for everybody and that way Tarja has all the time to figure out what she wants. For five years long all her spare time has been going to Nightwish so it's a miracle she's still with us.

Can you understand the fans are getting worried about the future of Nightwish? Maybe Century Child will be the last album with Tarja.

They don't have to worry about that. Really. We are just having a year of peace. I don't think the fans have anything to complain about seeing we are such a productive band; Four studio-albums in five years, plus a live DVD and an EP. It's time to reload the battery again.

But first there's the two month tour with our own After Forever.

It was my own idea to bring them along. Both bands just fit with each other. Our concept is equal at some points yet we are two totally different bands. I love their music and I like their new album a lot. En the most important maybe is that we get along perfectly well. I'm looking forward to this tour and I hope to give our fans a beautiful night which they won't forget. We will do our best.

English translation by Lin


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